American Business Leaders Respond to the Proposed “Public Charge Rule”


A public comment submitted to the Department of Homeland Security on December 7, 2018


We, the undersigned entrepreneurs, business leaders, and job creators who help grow the U.S. economy, submit these comments for the record in response to the notice of proposed rulemaking from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), entitled “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” that was published in the Oct. 10, 2018 edition of the Federal Register.

We strongly oppose this proposed rule, which would create substantial, unprecedented, and unnecessary obstacles for individuals seeking temporary visas, permanent residence, and ultimately even U.S. citizenship. Such obstacles will slow economic growth and prevent businesses from expanding. The proposed policy is overbroad because, among other things, it attempts to establish that any of the following so-called “negative factors” could contribute to the denial of a visa or green card application:

  • Earning a household income less than 250% of the Federal Poverty
  • Guidelines (e.g. $62,750 for a family of four).
  • Being older than 61 or younger than 18.
  • Having any medical condition that could in any measure interfere with school or work, including any disability.
  • Not having sufficient resources to cover such a medical condition.
  • Not having private health insurance.
  • Having children or other dependents living at home, including elderly or disabled parents, grandparents, or other relatives.
  • Having any financial liabilities, including but not limited to mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, or student loans.
  • Having a credit score below the national average.
  • Having limited employment history.
  • Not having a high school diploma or higher education.
  • Not having “adequate education and skills.”
  • Lacking English proficiency (based on a standard that DHS may later establish).
  • Previously applying for a fee waiver from DHS.
  • Prior or current use of certain public benefits.

This policy would prevent countless people critical to growing American businesses from living and working here. As business leaders who run companies that employ thousands of workers, both American-born and Americans-in-waiting, we understand what a devastating impact this policy would have on business growth, economic vitality, and U.S. competitiveness.


This policy would close the door on global talent.

Any of the above “negative factors” could make it unlikely or impossible for our companies to hire and retain talented individuals who would otherwise be clearly eligible for an employer-sponsored green card or work visa and would productively contribute to the U.S. economy.1

By effectively requiring these workers to have a household income above 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, for example, this policy would exclude a childless couple earning less than $41,150, or the breadwinner for a family of four earning less than $62,750 (which is higher than the median income in the United States).

Moreover, DHS does not consider the reality that many of our most skilled workers will be compensated with stock options on top of their regular annual income. It is not uncommon for highly skilled workers at technology companies, for example, to take 20-50% of their compensation in stock options rather than salary.

These are middle-class salaries, and certainly do not justify DHS’s suspicion that anyone below this arbitrary threshold could some day become a drain on public resources. It makes no sense to shut out talented workers because they have children, mortgages, or student loans—all traditional elements of achieving the American Dream.


This policy would impose tremendous and unnecessary costs on companies of all sizes.

The proposal has yet more drastic effects, which will be borne by every U.S. business, large and small, that employs immigrants. All green card applicants, and potentially all applicants for temporary visa extensions and changes, would be compelled by DHS to fill out an entirely new 15-page form (the “I-944”) and assemble a raft of supporting documents, regardless of their salary. Such documentation would include—but not be limited to—three years of tax returns, evidence of all assets, evidence of all liabilities (mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, student loans, etc.), credit report, credit score, health insurance records, and more.

This paperwork burden would generate extraordinary new complexity, cost, delays, and uncertainty for U.S. businesses. When businesses sponsor employees for lawful permanent residence status or temporary work visas, they typically pay the legal costs of assembling the applications. This new policy would impose thousands of dollars of additional direct legal costs per application. Because each year U.S. businesses sponsor more than 100,000 workers for permanent residence alone, simply paying the legal fees associated with the new forms will cost productive businesses hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Every dollar spent on these fees is a dollar not spent investing in new equipment, employee training, and research and development.

Beyond that, form preparation will cost significant amounts of employee time, resulting in lost productivity. DHS estimates opportunity costs to applicants as potentially greater than $1.3 billion over 10 years, based in part on an estimated average of 4.5 hours to complete the new form described above.2 Based on our experience, we believe these are gross underestimates. Moreover, applying the “public charge” test so broadly will inevitably slow down federal agency processing times for businesses seeking to hire or retain their employees, and DHS fails to estimate the opportunity cost of such delays.3 We suggest that DHS provide a more rigorous and transparent cost estimation methodology.

Finally, DHS cannot claim to have adequately estimated this policy’s costs without accounting for each time the “public charge determination” test would be applied by other federal agencies, including the Department of State (for applicants abroad), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (for applicants at border crossings and ports of entry), and the Department of Justice (for current lawful permanent residents).


This policy doesn’t add up.

In its proposed rule, DHS spends over 20 pages attempting to estimate how many dollars worth of public benefits are received by noncitizens.4 DHS does not devote a single sentence to estimating how many dollars worth of taxes are contributed by noncitizens.

Yet there is extensive literature demonstrating that immigrants in the United States, across the socioeconomic spectrum, pay more in taxes than they take out in public benefits.5 DHS does not cite a single one of these studies.

We are concerned that DHS is failing to take into consideration essential facts in shaping its new policy, which substantially deviates from its longstanding policy over the past several decades, and which will be harmful to businesses like ours and the U.S. economy overall.

This makes no sense to us as business leaders, where the performance of our companies is judged by income and expenses—that is, costs and benefits. We do not understand how DHS can entirely ignore one side of the ledger.


This policy is contrary to American values.

Immigration to America—and access to the American dream—is not limited by wealth. America has long valued the positive impact made by immigrants across the economic spectrum. What matters is what an immigrant can contribute to our economy and our society.

The restrictions that DHS now contemplates would have barred some of America’s most successful and innovative business leaders from coming here, and would have prevented the creation of iconic American companies. After all, 43 percent of the 2017 Fortune 500 companies were originally founded or co-founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.6 Of the nearly 100 American startups valued at $1 billion or more, the majority (55%) have an immigrant founder.7

From Andrew Carnegie to Sergey Brin, many of these individuals came to America with nothing. America has always been a proving ground for talent.


As business leaders working to grow the American economy, we urge DHS not to issue this rule, which will only serve to impede economic success. This “public charge” regulation never should have been proposed, and it should never be enacted. America’s future competitiveness hangs in the balance.


Signed,

Ben Rubin, CEO
10% Happier
Boston, MA

Eleanor Mitch, Co-Founder & CEO
14bis Supply Tracking
Houston, TX

Greg Cohn, Co-Founder & CEO
Ad Hoc Labs, Inc.
Los Angeles, CA

Scott Moore, Co-Founder & CEO
Ad Lightning, Inc.
Seattle, WA

Laura Spiekerman, Chief Revenue Officer
Alloy
New York, NY

Drew Silverstein, CEO
Amper Music
New York, NY

Jamie L. Miller, CEO
Amplero
Seattle, WA

Jason M. Cohen, Founder & CEO
Analytical Flavor Systems
New York, NY

Carlo Salmini, President & CEO
Anomaly Action Sports Holdings Inc. & Anomaly Action Sports Inc.
Park City, UT

Scott Ferris, Founder & CEO
Attunely, Inc.
Seattle, WA

Derek Haas, CEO
Avant-garde Health
Boston, MA

Xiao Wang, Co-Founder & CEO
Doug Rand, Co-Founder & President
Serdar Sutay, Co-Founder & CTO
Boundless Immigration Inc.
Seattle, WA

Austin Oehlerking, CEO
Boxbot
Oakland, CA

Jared Hansen, CEO
Breezy
Las Vegas, NV

Ron Boninger, CEO
Carbitex, Inc.
Kennewick, WA

Thomas Beecher, CEO
Cartera
Lexington, MA

Mat Ellis, CEO
Cloudability
Portland, OR

Turner Ryan Levison, CEO
CommissionTrac
Atlanta, GA

Daniel Freund, President
Common Census, Inc.
Westbrook, ME

Michael Koeris, Chairman of the Board & Co-Founder
Corvium
Boston, MA

John Cowgill, Principal
Costanoa Ventures
San Francisco, CA

Tim Delisle, Co-Founder & CEO
Datalogue
New York, NY

Jordan Fliegel, CEO
Draft.com
New York, NY

Dmitry Stavisky, Founder & CEO
Edwin Technology Corp.
San Francisco, CA

Tyler Davidson, CEO
Element Data
Seattle, WA

Matthew Jakubowski, Founder
Elephant Technology, LLC
Newtonville, MA

Adam Boyko, Co-Founder
Embark Veterinary
Ithaca, NY

Rathna Sharad, CEO
FlavorCloud, Inc.
Seattle, WA

Elliott James Perry, CEO
Flex
Los Angeles, CA

Tyler Spalding, Co-Founder
Zachary Kilgore, Co-Founder
Trevor Filter, Co-Founder
Flexa
New York, NY

Jeffrey Bussgang, General Partner
Flybridge Capital
Boston, MA

Heather Redman, Co-Founder & Managing Director
Flying Fish Partners
Seattle, WA

Philip Nadel, Managing Director
Forefront Venture Partners
Boca Raton, FL

Zach Noorani, Partner
Charles Moldow, General Partner
Rodolfo Gonzalez, Partner
Foundation Capital
Palo Alto, CA

Aviel Ginzburg, General Partner
Founders’ Co-op
Seattle, WA

Brad Feld, Partner
Foundry Group
Boulder, CO

Jeffrey Glueck, CEO
Foursquare
New York, NY

Patrick Riley, CEO
GAN
Denver, CO

Jake Schwartz, Co-Founder & CEO
General Assembly
New York, NY

Jeff Whelpley, Co-Founder & CTO
GetHuman
Boston, MA

Roberto Figueroa, Founder & CEO
Gradient Technologies, Inc.
Seattle, WA

Jay Byers, CEO
Greater Des Moines Partnership
Des Moines, IA

Austin Dirks, CEO
GreenLight Medical
Nashville, TN

Lee Mayer, CEO
Havenly
Denver, CO

Nick Francis, CEO
Help Scout
Boston, MA

Ariel Seidman, Co-Founder & CEO
Hivemapper
Burlingame, CA

Erika Mozes, Co-Founder & COO
Hyr
New York, NY

Kevin Oakes, CEO
i4cp
Medina, WA

Steven Lee, Co-Founder
ianacare
Boston, MA

James A. Batson, Jr., Owner
JAB Ventures, Inc.
North Andover, MA

Tom Coburn, CEO
Jebbit
Boston, MA

Douglas Johnson, CEO
Jobalign, Inc.
Seattle, WA

Rahul Shah, Founder & CEO
Katalyst Technologies, Inc.
Evanston, IL

Slava Menn, Principal
Labrador Real Estate
Boston, MA

Sebastien Roy, CEO
Lean Systems, Inc.
New York, NY

Catherine A. Lee, Managing Director
Lee International Business Development LLC
Westbrook, ME

Adam Stelle, Co-Founder
Loftium
Seattle, WA

Paul English, Co-Founder, President & CTO
Lola.com
Boston, MA

Sam Wilcoxon, CEO
Charlie Fogarty, Co-Founder
Lorem
New York, NY

Cole J. Brodman, CEO
M87
Bellevue, WA

Elizabeth Greason, Co-Founder
Maine Intercultural Communication Consultants
Portland, ME

Thomas Hopcroft, President & CEO
Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council
Lexington, MA

Daryn Nakhuda, CEO
Mighty AI
Seattle, WA

Dilip Goswami, CEO
Molekule, Inc.
San Francisco, CA

Mikhail Kokorich, President
MOMENTUS Space
Santa Clara, CA

Dev Ittycheria, President & CEO
MongoDB, Inc.
New York, NY

Jori Maron, Partner
MRN LTD
Cleveland, OH

Bryan House, Chief Commercial Officer
Neural Magic
Somerville, MA

Greg Mills, CEO
Nix Hydra Games
Los Angeles, CA

Kristopher R. Beevers, CEO
NS1
New York, NY

Noah Breslow, Chairman & CEO
OnDeck
New York, NY

Semyon Dukach, Managing Partner
Eveline Buchatskiy, Managing Partner
One Way Ventures
Boston, MA

Jason T. Ray, CEO
Paperless Parts, Inc.
Boston, MA

Sundeep Ambati, Co-Founder
Patch Homes
San Francisco, CA

Greg Gottesman, Co-Founder & Managing Director
Ben Gilbert, Co-Founder
T.A. McCann, Managing Director
Pioneer Square Labs
Seattle, WA

Josh Hix, Co-Founder & CEO
Plated
New York, NY

Kendall H. Tucker, CEO
Polis, Inc.
Cambridge, MA

Tony Huang, CEO
Possible Finance
Seattle, WA

Bastian Lehmann, Co-Founder & CEO
Postmates
San Francisco, CA

David West, CEO
Proscia, Inc.
Philadelphia, PA

Karl Stillner, CEO
PushSpring
Seattle, WA

Mykhaylo Kostandov, Co-Founder & CTO
Rallyware
Mountain View, CA

Luke Bonney, CEO
Redox
Madison, WI

Bal Krishan Gupta, CEO
Refresh
San Francisco, CA

Matt Oppenheimer, CEO
Remitly
Seattle, WA

Chris Hanada, CEO
Retrofit Films
Los Angeles, CA

Robin Gregg, CEO
RoadSync
Atlanta, GA

David A. Rochon, CEO
SavingStar
Waltham, MA

Kamil Mroczek, CTO
Sense360 Inc.
Culver City, CA

Rohit Gupta, CEO
Sentenai
Boston, MA

Jon Oringer, Founder & CEO
Shutterstock, Inc.
New York, NY

Caroline Fay, Co-Founder & Chair
Skillist
Cambridge, MA

Sandi Lin, Co-Founder & CEO
Skilljar
Seattle, WA

Paul Foley, CEO
SmartCapital
Denver, CO

Mark St. Germain, President
St. Germain Collins
Westbrook, ME

Nikesh S. Parekh, CEO
Suplari, Inc.
Seattle, WA

Shannon Swift, Founder & CEO
Swift HR Solutions, Inc.
Bellevue, WA

Joseph Holland, CEO
Teachers Pay Teachers
New York, NY

David J. DuPont, President & CEO
TeamSnap, Inc.
Boulder, CO

David Brown, Co-CEO
Clement Cazalot, Managing Director
David Cohen, Founder & Co-CEO
Christopher H DeVore, Managing Director
Techstars
Boulder, CO

Thomas Trent Gegax, CEO
The Gramercy Fund
Atlanta, GA

Jules Pleri, Co-Founder & CEO
The Grommet
Somerville, MA

Tom Pincince, Founder & CEO
Till Financial
Boston, MA

Jason LeeKeenan, CEO
TraceMe, Inc.
Seattle, WA

Cody Barbo, CEO
Daniel Goldstein, Co-Founder
Trust & Will
San Diego, CA

Avinash Kaza, CEO
Upswell
New York, NY

Alexander García-Tobar, CEO
Peter Goldstein, Co-Founder & CTO
Valimail
San Francisco, CA

Pascal Wagner, CEO
Walkthrough
Denver, CO

Neil Blumenthal, Co-Founder & Co-CEO
Dave Gilboa, Co-Founder & Co-CEO
Warby Parker
New York, NY

Krista Marks, CEO
Woot Math
Boulder, CO

Martina Welkhoff, Founding Partner
WXR Fund
Seattle, WA

Raymond Wu, CEO
Wynd Technologies, Inc.
San Jose, CA


References

  1. Economic Impact of Proposed Rule Change: Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, New American Economy (Oct. 11, 2018), https://research.newamericaneconomy.org/report/economic-impact-of-proposed-rule-change-inadmissibility-on-public-charge-grounds/ 
  2. 83 Fed. Reg. at 51273. 
  3. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is certainly capable of establishing a detailed baseline for processing times, as presented to the public here: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times 
  4. 83 Fed. Reg. at 51159-51174, 51260-51269. 
  5. For example, see the following study along with its extensive reference list: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/23550. DHS does not note that under existing policy the educational level of new arrivals has increased substantially over last two decades (see p. 462 of the NAS study). 
  6. Immigrant Founders of the 2017 Fortune 500 (Dec. 3, 2017), Center for American Entrepreneurship, http://startupsusa.org/fortune500/ 
  7. Anderson, Stuart. Immigrants and Billion-Dollar Companies (Oct. 2018), National Foundation for American Policy, http://nfap.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-BILLION-DOLLAR-STARTUPS.NFAP-Policy-Brief.2018.pdf